Five Facts About International Schooling


Liz Perelstein – School Choice International

Most companies sending employees overseas offer some kind of cross-cultural training.  But we rarely think of cross- cultural training for school children, even though education can be a make or break issue for many families considering an overseas assignment.

As you can see from the facts below, even expats who send their children to international schools encounter cultural differences that may be significant, and may clash with family customs.  Schools – local and even international – are a microcosm of the culture they inhabit.  Without understanding the host country’s educational system children can be disadvantaged in the admissions arena, in academic performance and in the ease of transition.

Consider these facts:

1) Did you know that 8th graders in Belgium, Korea and Japan do not use calculators in math classes?

Curriculum differences like these make it hard for children trained on calculators to adapt to local mathematics instruction in these countries.

2) Did you know that German parents give their children a Schultuete, or a cone filled with treats on the day they start first grade?

Children unfamiliar with local customs can feel awkward or embarrassed, affecting the transition to their new school.

3) Did you know that in Brazil children either go to school in the morning OR in the afternoon?

Spouses may find it difficult to work in countries with a school schedule alien to them.

4) Did you know that Saudi Arabia is enforcing a law that requires expat children to attend a school of their own nationality?

Many families choose a curriculum other than their national curriculum, often to preserve curriculum continuity with former or future schooling.

5) Did you know that admissions for 4-to-10 year olds for New York City independent schools requires an entrance examination that is ONLY administered in New York City?

Admissions opportunities may be limited for children if parents are unaware of requirements.

To learn more about educational customs in different parts of the world, visit our School Choice International blog or our Fact of the Week Collection.

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4 responses to “Five Facts About International Schooling

  1. Liz:

    I enjoyed your article. Although not recognized nearly enough, accompaning children on international assignment can make or brake assignment success. We began delivering intercultural training for “third culture kids” in the late 1970’s, and they are almost always included now in our programs. I delivered a presentation on this subject at a kpmg conference entitled “Third Culture Kids: The Forgotten People in International Relocation” I would be happy to send you a copy of the slide deck, if you wish.


    Mike Tucker

  2. Liz Perelstein


    I am glad you enjoyed the article! The families we work with are constantly mentioning that finding a good fit for their children is a high priority for them during any relocation. A big part of finding that good fit is understanding the cultural differences between countries. I would be happy to see a copy of your KPMG presentation.

  3. Liz:

    I can’t seem to find your e-mail address to forward the kpmg presentation.

    Mike Tucker

  4. Liz,
    What a timely article for me. My department helps relocate employees internationally and this issue has been coming up more and more. I plan to share your post with my whole department. It will be a great guide of things to consider when we negotiate the relo packages with employees. Thank you!